A successful ‘lean media’
project does not have to be national or international in scope. It just has to truly lead to media that resonates with audiences.
wrong. Even the most hard-nosed traffic guru or growth hacker knows that the best way to get great numbers is by having great media to work with.
Here is the other thing with just looking at the numbers to make creative decisions: most of the data will point you to what worked in the past. And, as any experienced media person will know, what is hot this year may very well be a flash in the pan or a one-hit wonder, as the creator of Gangnam Style can attest!
Lots of people trot out examples of big media companies that have succeeded on a metrics-driven strategy. However, companies like Zynga (creators of Farmville and Zynga Poker) have been failing in recent years, as its string of copycat games and acquisitions fail to generate much interest. Famously, it uses A/B testing to make creative decisions, and does not give its creative people much room to experiment or develop their own visions. What worked in the past will determine what Zynga releases in the future. It has laid off thousands of people in the past five years, and revenue has been flat.
And, while data-driven companies like Amazon and Netflix are doing very well with new video and film content, they do not only work by the numbers— they have some of the most talented creative people in Hollywood coming up with ideas and developing them in concert with both quantitative data and qualitative feedback. With the huge budgets and development timelines at their disposal, Netflix and Amazon are not taking a lean approach, but what they are doing depends on a big creative vision, not just a numbers-based popularity concept.
04 lean media has only been practiced in recent years
‘Lean media’ techniques have been used by successful media creators for decades, even though the terminology was only developed in the last five years. It is not a new fad.
The earliest example that I talk about in my book is Led Zeppelin, a British hard rock band that used audience feedback and a fast-moving creative process to develop its first two albums in 1968 and 1969. Producers of The Simpsons also used a low-cost, small-team approach and early audience feedback to validate the concept of a primetime TV cartoon in the late 1980s. It became a global hit.
A more recent example is Minecraft, a successful video game that was purchased by Microsoft for more than $2 billion several years ago. Minecraft was developed by a Swedish game programmer working part time and using online audience feedback and live testing to improve the playability, design, and other elements.
05 lean media is only for big brands or large media companies
A successful ‘lean media’ project does not have to be national or international in scope. It just has to truly lead to media that resonates with audiences.
There are many other examples of small-scale projects and local media creation. ‘Lean media’ can be used for designing a book cover or the content of a news article, writing a new song, or creating a niche website for people interested in a certain topic.
In fact, one of the great things about small-scale media projects that are developed with smaller teams and smaller budgets, is they can iterate more quickly based on audience feedback. However, many small teams or solo creators (such as an author) may struggle with recruiting test audiences. I have some specific tips for addressing that issue in the book ( Lean Media), such as using ‘surrogate audiences’, which are audiences who like the same things that you think your audience will like. ■